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New career assistance program launched by coLearning and TEKsystems

The Factory and TEKsystems have announced a partnership that will provide financial and career assistance to those taking The Factory's coLearning courses.

coLearning classes blend technology and design. They feature instructors who are "industry experts" says Aaron Schaap, founder of The Factory. "These are the people you want to become. They have working knowledge from doing it day in and day out." Courses range from Design Thinking and User Experience Design to Content Strategy, Modern Web Development and Software Development.

Schaap says over 200 people have already completed coLearning courses. He says the program is designed for individuals who have been in the workplace for a few years but understand the rapid pace of change in the economy necessitates constant career vigilance. "These individuals are realizing what they graduated with is not what is needed," he says. "They have a lot of knowledge but not skills."

TEKsystems has been involved with coLearning since the launch of the program in 2013. The new partnership gives TEKsystems a bigger role as they now will be offering career assistance (customized career planning, resume building, interviewing tips, job placement) and financial reimbursement for completed courses and successful employment.  

To learn more about the program, including enrollment, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Degage Ministries and Paul's Moms' Cookies partner up FTW!

How's this for a winning partnership? The Heartside mission, Degage Ministries, partners with Paul's Moms' Cookies to provide job, business and life-skills training to women who are part of Degage's Open Door Women's Center. As part of the program, the women are learning the process of baking cookies each week and are running a booth at the Rockford Farmers' Market with the proceeds benefiting the center.

And, of course, the end customer gets to enjoy a delicious artisan cookie. #FTW.

Pauls' Moms' Cookies is a business started by two moms with the goal of raising money for a charity. Marge Palmerlee, Executive Director at Degage, said they were approached to partner with the company: "Chris Mason and Cindy Knape, are the women who started the business. We created a pilot program that pays an hourly rate through the summer. The goal is to give women the skills like salesmanship and how to run a business so they so they can get a job after the program is over."

Through the partnership, former Open Door patrons work alongside the founders of Pauls' Moms' Cookies through various parts of the operation, including baking, operations and selling. Kristie Newkirk is one of the two women working with the program and says it has been a terrific learning experience. "I learned how to work together with othe r people and how to trust," she says. She says selling at the farmers' market has made her get out of her comfort zone and talk to people she normally wouldn't be interacting with.

After the summer program, Parmerlee is very optimistic about the future. "Right now we are just at the Rockford Farmers' Market but we are looking to grow," she says. "Our goal is [to] hire more women for the program."

To learn more about the organizations involved, you can view their sites here and here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Four-year anniversary gives Doorganics something to celebrate

Business is never easy, especially for startups. So there was a lot to celebrate at a Wlicox Park "birthday party" when Doorganics recently hit its four-year mark.

Mike Hughes, founder of Doorganics, took the time to outline several of the company's milestones since launching in 2012. "We have now have 10 employees, two of which are new, full-time jobs in the last six months," he says. "We've also been able to move all our part-time employees to more hours, almost 30 plus hours per week."  

Hughes says that new products, services and technology are driving growth: "When we introduced our online ordering software in 2013, it changed the game." He says they went from about 70 deliveries per week to over 500 deliveries per week (as of April 2015).

He points to new product lines, including deli items such as popular organic salads, and says he is getting ready to test meal kits, which include a kebob set featuring prepped, locally sourced meats, veggies and skewers, which then can be assembled quickly for a grill out.   

With the growth, Doorganics has never lost sight on its mission of making fresh, local and organic foods accessible while supporting the local producers. Hughes says many small farms are growing along side Doorganics such as Lettuce Boy Farm, Jacob's Acres and In Harmony Farm.

What's next for Doorganics will most likely include a new building. "We want to stay in the city of Grand Rapids and be part of the momentum and stay true to our roots but our current building can't hold us," he says. Hughes says his team is actively looking for a new site and should have an announcement in the next six months.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor

Spring GR coaches, connects, and inspires entrepreneurs

There are a variety of services for entrepreneurs in West Michigan but none quite like Spring GR, a hands-on program that provides guidance from idea to ongoing support beyond launch.

Attah Obande is the lead business consultant and hub coordinator at Spring GR. He says the program began as pilot in March and now is ramping up for a sustained presence in West Michigan. "It started as a pilot program to serve and grow entrepreneurs in the community," he says. "We have a lot of talent here and why don't we grow it?"

Obande says the curriculum is based on a successful program that was launched in Chattanooga, TN. He says Spring GR can support any idea but it is really designed to help individuals who are looking to start lifestyle businesses that serve the community where they live and individuals who might be embracing self employment for the first time. "Most of the participants in our program have no business plan or experience," he says.  

The program is 12 weeks long and has one topic per week, focusing on business basics, target markets, cash flow and financials. The  heart of the program, however, is what happens after the entrepreneurs get the business started: "We commit to the entrepreneurs to be an ongoing resource. We work to connect these individuals with other community support."  

Obande, who recently served as a judge for the new 5x5 Night, says the program is designed to complement other programs that serve entrepreneurs in the community, such as GROW, Restorers; to enhance the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and not duplicate other programs.

Obande says the ideal class size is 10-15 people and the cost for the participant $100.   You can view the first graduation class of Spring GR here and learn more about the program here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

$50,000 business plan competition beckons entrepreneurs to northern Michigan

The Momentum Business Plan Competition will award one entrepreneur $50,000 to start (or relocate) an early-stage business in West Michigan's Mason County.

John Wilson, founder and program backer, says the competition has several objectives beyond helping a business, including attracting creative and visionary leaders to the region. "When you have high-energy thinkers and are attracting that type of person to your city, you can have a huge impact not only with their business but within the community. People are often more important than the business," he says.

Wilson says the competition is wide open with few restrictions. However, they are looking for businesses that will be selling their products and services beyond Mason County: "We want businesses that can generate revenue inside and outside of the area."

Launching a business in a smaller market has several advantages. "We have a great collaborative community," says Wilson. "People work together here. It's a tight-knit community that supports the small business side."
Administered by the Ludington & Scottville Chamber of Commerce, the Momentum Business Plan Competition is open to any eligible independent for-profit or non-profit venture with a viable business idea, plan or invention; or an existing organization or company with less than $100,000 in sales or revenue annually. Eligible contestants can upload a business plan to momentumstartup.org until July 31, 2015. Entrance requirements and rules also can be found on the contest website.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Modustri enters into alliance with Caterpillar, expects to double team in next 18 months

Grand Rapids-based Modustri, maker of digital tools for the heavy equipment industry, has announced a new, strategic alliance with Caterpillar Inc.

Modustri and Caterpillar will work together to develop new innovations that help customers measure wear parts, optimize their fleets and reduce downtime.

Brian Steketee, co-founder and CEO of Modustri, says his company has been working with dealers within the Caterpillar family for the last several years and the new alliance is an evolution of that relationship. "It's a natural progression of our working with Catepillar," says Steketee. "Heavy equipment is a major focus of our business."

With the new alliance in place, Modustri is expected to significantly expand its local team. Steketee estimates his firm will be adding 15-20 new jobs. "We are very thankful to grow our presence in West Michigan and could potentially double the size of our staff in the next 18 months," he says.  

Modustri is the inventor and developer of field technology products for industries with stringent requirements for precision measurements and inspection data. For more information visit modustri.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Healthcare tech firm eVideon thrives in Grand Rapids medical marketplace, plans new hires in 2015

To support its growing brand of healthcare technology solutions, healthcare tech firm eVideon is looking for three to four new full-time employees in the areas of sales and marketing, software development and engineering. 

“If you are a hospital patient and you turn your TV on, that’s eVideon,” says eVideon President Jeff Ingle, whose Grand-Rapids-based tech firm plans these new hires on the heels of nearly eight other new jobs created in the past year alone. 

eVideon became its own business unit of education technology firm, Optimal Solutions, in the early 2000s when a group employees began to focus on video delivery over the data network - a pioneering project at the time, Ingle says, and one that other tech firms are just catching up to now. 

“We started at Metro Health and one of the things about Metro Health is that they wanted what's called converted system,” he says, explaining that a converged system is essentially three components of data, voice and video operating on a single network — a vision, he adds, that was "clearly ahead of its time."

eVideon's system works by utlizing data from other applications already in place at the hospital such as the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), allowing for an interactive viewing environment where patient education videos can be personalized for patients based on their specific condition, diagnosis, or treatment. 

The system can also customize HD TV channels, movie options, and includes relaxation videos and sleep aid sounds, to boot.  

“There's the entertainment aspect of it, there’s the education aspect of it, but there’s also the service recovery aspect of it,” he says. “Instead of using the TV as a passive tool or a linear thing, it's an interactive tool.”

Ingle says eVideon will continue to find new ways to implement the system and evolve its uses, currently in the process of rolling out a new line of eVideon software on the conventional and touch screen swing arm TVs at the VA Ann Arbor Medical System. Built to streamline interoperability between the VA’s existing VistA Electronic Medical Record, the new system will allow medical staff to prescribe educational content within the EMR and as the patient progresses, that information is written back in real time. 

The tech company recently signed a contract with the San Francisco General Hopstial, which will be the first facility to receive eVideon’s next generation hardware and software platform.  The next generation platform will give patients, family members, and hospital staff the ability to access the Internet, play interactive games, communicate through video chats, request non-clinical services and much more.

“The thing is awareness,” Ingle says. “We’re making a big effort to enable people to know who we are. Our territory is not Michigan and Grand Rapids; it's the entire U.S. People haven't heard about us, and we really want to get more exposure out there so (eVideon) become(s) the name people think of when they’re considering putting these systems in.” 

Visit eVideon online for more information about careers there or learn more about eVideon's interactive healthcare technology and education software.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of eVidion

Kendall College students achieve "per-feektion" in design competition

It's hard to imagine a better college assignment than being part of a design competition where you are given carte blanche to create anything you can dream of using an amazing material called Feek.

That is basically what students from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) recently experienced when they participated in Trendway Corporation's inaugural design competition, exploring the creative possibilities with Feek, a very unique coated foam product.

Top prize was taken by a team composed of Jordan Eastwood, Amanda Lumley, Hannah Snyder and Linghom Wang. Their winning design, Eco, introduces a set of elements for use in pediatric waiting rooms, including a butterfly, dragonfly and bee shapes.

Trendway President and CEO Bill Bundy, who also served as a judge, says the teams were given a ton of latitude with the competition. "We imposed very few limitations," he says. Instead, competition organizers let the student teams work through the entire design process, including extensive research on Feek, and then set them loose to create their own designs for whatever industry they deemed would be a good fit.

Bundy says Trendway holds the North American license for Feek and introduced the product in 2013. He says Feek especially lends itself to "whimsical, creative and fun" designs, which is exactly what he was looking for from the students since the winning design from the KCAD team will be featured in Trendway's Chicago Showroom during NeoCon week, June 15 through 17.

Trendway Corporation is an employee-owned company in Holland, Michigan. The company offers many products, including panel systems, filing, storage, case goods, seating, and architectural solutions with moveable walls, glass storefront and raised floor. Bundy says the firm is growing with several open positions, including a new job for someone specifically to expand and champion Feek throughout North America.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.


GVSU housing program serves out-of-state summer interns

College students from around the country are calling Grand Rapids home this summer, thanks to a progressive housing program created by Grand Valley State University.

Nearly 100 students, including 80 non-Grand Valley students from universities such as California State, Northwestern, Miami of Ohio, Indiana State and Clemson, will be completing their internships with local companies this summer while living together on GVSU's campuses. After that, if everything goes as planned, they will fall in love with West Michigan and end up living and working here, happily ever after.

Of course, nothing goes according to plan all the time, but this program is a great way to expose young professionals to West Michigan and everything it has to offer.

The housing program, which is coordinated by GVSU's Career Center and Housing office, began two years ago when Amway Corporation and Grand Valley partnered together to help out-of-state interns find a place to stay while they worked in West Michigan. Beginning with five students the first year, the program grew to 50 the next year and now has almost 100 students with 20 participating companies, including Meijer, Van Andel Institute and Steelcase.

While working here, students will live on the Pew Grand Rapids and Allendale campuses. Rachel Becklin, internship specialist at GVSU, says besides providing the housing, they also try to help with extra-curricular activities. "There is nothing formal but we work in conjunction with Hello West Michigan and try to let interns know what's going on in the city," she says.

To learn more about the program you can contact the GVSU's Career Center and Housing office.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor


Guiding Light Mission launches employment agency at downtown GR headquarters

Guiding Light Mission in downtown Grand Rapids will add a third revenue stream to assist its shrinking dependence on donors with The Job Post, an employment agency run out of its 255 S. Division headquarters for the time being. 

“What we’ve tried to do is become less and less dependent upon the normal donor income revenue streams and do it more on our own,” says Stuart Ray, executive director of Guiding Light Mission. ”The Job Post works for us because it’s consistent with our mission statement just as transitional housing is consistent with our mission.” 

Operating under the tagline, “Renewing hope and rebuilding lives one job at a time,” The Job Post is open to the larger public, not just men enrolled in Guiding Light Mission’s other programming. 

“We were not going to pigeonhole people into The Job Post,” Ray says. “We opened it to everybody; anybody in the community can come. We do intend to have multiple offices before this is over because, at the same time, we don’t want to be pigeonholed into Heartside.” 

The agency will operate primarily as a “temp to hire” service, placing job candidates in temporary work positions with the intention of developing the positions into full-time employment. They will also offer some traditional temporary employment as well. 

“It’s going to be a lot of sitting down, doing market research and strategy for where we’re going to go and what the return on investment is going to look like,” he says. “And it’s just not being afraid. Sometimes that’s one of the biggest obstacles.” 

For more information, visit lifeonthestreet.org/. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Guiding Light Mission 

Made in the U.S.A., Flow-Rite Controls on the grow and hiring

Founded in the basement of one of the founders in 1981, West Michigan-based Flow-Rite Controls has quietly grown to a company of over 150, operating out of a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Byron Center.

The vertically integrated manufacturing firm specializes in fluids. It designs, manufactures and markets a wide variety of fluid control devices for lead acid batteries, laboratory, medical use, and recreation fishing boats.

Bridgett Haley, marketing communication specialist, says the firm is actively recruiting to fill up six open positions.

For job seekers, Haley describes Flow-Rite as medium-sized company but with a small business mentality. "There are many reasons to join our team," Haley says. "Managers maintain open-door policies; cross-team collaboration is strongly encouraged; and people can really see their hard work having a direct effect on an organization. Most importantly, there are many opportunities for personal and professional growth including cross-training, volunteering at local charities, leadership classes, mentoring, and more."

Haley says for many of the job opportunities, two qualities stand out the most: "Passion and a can-do attitude are the top qualities we look for when hiring for a position."

Flow-Rite is located at 960 74th Street S.W. in Byron Center. To learn more about the company, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Nucraft begins major expansion at Comstock Park HQ, projects 40 new manufacturing jobs to follow

Contract furniture maker Nucraft broke ground on a 47,700-square-foot expansion of its manufacturing facility last week, with the addition bringing the Comstock Park headquarters at 5151 West River Drive to a total square footage of 300,000 upon its completion next fall. 

CEO Matt Schad says the new addition, focused on the expansion of the facility’s machining, veneering and product set-up departments, could created a projected 40 new full-time manufacturing positions over the next two years in addition to the existing 290 existing employees there.  

“Those projections are based on where we anticipate the market going. Obviously, if there’s a downturn in the economy things may change, but it’s based on our sales projections and how we have done staffing in the past,” Schad says. “Our first step is to build the building, then we’ll be moving equipment into the new addition and at that point, we’ll assess our hiring needs.” 

Erhardt Construction is managing the expansion project, with design concepts by architects at Fleis & Vandenbrink. Schad says the team hopes to have the new, expanded space move-in ready by the beginning of October this year. 

“The market for contract furniture has been improving greatly over the past year or so and we’ve been very fortunate to be able to be a part of that,” he says. “It’s a matter of having enough capacity to service our customers, both conference products and private office casegoods.”

Schad says in the next few years, Nucraft will focus on increasing offerings in private office casegoods, as well as expanding Nucraft’s presence in the market for conference and meeting space furniture both here in the U.S. and abroad. 

“We’ve been successful in many of the major markets like New York, Washington DC, and Chicago and so that’s where a lot of our focus is, but we’ve also have had a lot of success in smaller markets like Minneapolis, Denver, and North Carolina and places like that - so the success is really throughout the country,” he says. 

“If we keep focusing on product development, keep relying on our fantastic internal sales force and independent reps and keep producing the high-quality furniture our customers expect, I think our growth will continue on.” 

To learn more about Nucraft’s products or available careers there, visit Nucraft online here

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Nucraft

Art Van Sports Complex is hitting stride in year one

It hasn't taken the Art Van Sports Complex (AVSC) long to make an impact and live up to its promise of being a significant economic engine for the West Michigan region. According to West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) President Mike Guswiler, the AVSC is exceeding expectations in year one.

Whether you are measuring the number of out-of-town teams visiting the site, the number of tournaments that are being scheduled or the "heads-on-beds" numbers that are important to the hospitality industry, Guswiler says everything is going well: "We are ahead of projections for Phase 1."

Guswiler says the AVSC is anticipating several sell-out weekends this summer due to multiple sporting events and tournaments that will fill area hotels with players, their families and fans. When combined with other WMSC events, the economic impact could generate as much as $14.3 million collectively.   

Upcoming AVSC events include:
- USSSA River City Global Qualifier will bring 28 teams to the Art Van Sports Complex.
- Great Lakes Major NIT - USSSA Baseball Tournament will bring 30 teams to the Art Van Sports Complex.
- Meijer State Games of Michigan Summer Games will features events at 34 locations, including a baseball tournament at the Art Van Sports Complex for the first time.
- Game Day USA National Championships will have more than 100 teams competing in this tournament that will fill the Art Van Sports Complex to capacity with 60 teams, with the rest playing at adjacent fields by Rockford Public Schools.

Besides the impact of the traveling team numbers, the AVSC has added local jobs with three full-time positions and up to 40 seasonal staff to support grounds, concession and parking activities.

You can view the entire line-up of events here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Off the beaten track, West Michigan software firm is adding jobs and growing

Nestled near a cornfield off of M-45 is one of the faster growing, employee-centric software development firms in West Michigan.  

BizStream, a 26-person web and software development company located in Allendale, Michigan, is on the grow. It has recently announced the addition of nine new team members including Budd Wright, Nick Beukema, Dustin Christians, Aaron Coville, Ansel Pineiro, Kevin Stachura, Blair Compston, Dave Valko and Amanda Hodges and has open positions remaining.

BizStream, founded in 2001, builds web, online marketing and software solutions for local, regional, national and international companies. The firm specializes in ASP.NET, SQL Server, Kentico CMS, Kentico EMS, and other content management systems.

Michelle Schmidt, office manager, acknowledges the extreme competition for software talent in West Michigan, but says BizStream is a very attractive company that features competitive wages and benefits and has an appealing culture: "We have fun, work hard and really appreciate the employees." She says the semi-rural location can be a surprise to individuals checking out BizStream, "but once they see the building and the culture they really dig it."

Schmidt says the firm is also committed to spreading the joy of software development and points to the summer's BizStream Academy, a free summer program for individuals interested in learning to code.

To learn more about BizStream, you can visit their site here or their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Developers expand market presence with growing project roster, staff increase in first quarter

With a growing roster of high-profile development projects in downtown Grand Rapids  — including the $45 million mixed-used Arena Place midway through construction, the nearly completed Eastown Flats scheduled to open next month and construction slated to begin this fall on two other mixed-use developments — Orion Construction has announced the addition of several new full-time hires.

The seven new positions are geared at increasing the developer’s job-site support, safety standards and office operations. Though Orion Construction has always offered pre-construction/estimating services for clients, President Roger Repkopf says the brand-new roles of operations manager and manager of pre-construction services at Orion Construction will allow for enhanced subcontractor relations and more streamlined field and office communications. 

“In a continued effort to better serve our clients and deepen our bench here at Orion, we’ve been recruiting what we believe are some of the best people our industry has to offer,” Repkopf says. “These new hires all have strong backgrounds in commercial building, love working in West Michigan and bring leadership to our field and our management teams.”

Bringing its total manpower up to 35 from 28, the positions were all created in the first quarter of 2015 and represent a 25 percent increase in its staff size overall. 

Repkopf says the now 15-year-old company wants to continue to grow and expand into the market, but in a deliberate way that doesn’t exceed its mid-sized status and, more importantly, doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity in both new and existing client relationships. 

“We don't want to be the biggest in town, we don't really want to be 200 employees and running all over the U.S.,” Repkopf says. “We want to focus more on our clients and be that $16 million-per-year company we’re focusing on ourselves to be.” 

For more information on new staff members as well as current development projects underway, visit www.orionbuilt.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development NEws Editor
Images courtesy of Orion Construction 

Related articles: 
Orion reworks plans for two new development projects in 2015 after council feedback

Orion Construction grows residential and job markets in tandem with various construction efforts

Orion Construction adds new staff to support multiple projects 

Orion Construction's growing project list creates need for accountant, three project superintendents

East Grand Rapids townhomes completed, 16 dwellings increase density three-fold for shops, eateries

222 Job Creation Articles | Page: | Show All
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